Staff at Perth Zoo are preparing to release 19 numbats into the wild as part of the zoo’s ongoing efforts to protect the severely endangered species. It’ll be the first introduction of captive-bred numbats into the Mt Gibson wildlife sanctuary, which is officially considered predator-free after the removal of feral cats and foxes.
Fourteen of the numbats, who’ve been fitted with radio collars, are set to live in Mt. Gibson. The other five will be released to Dryandra woodland, home to the largest natural population of the animal.
Since the formation of Perth Zoo’s captive breeding program in 1992, 220 numbats, including the latest group, have been released into the wild. As the newer group age out, the teenage numbats will be released to make room for the birth of babies, expected in January.
Dani Jose, Senior Zookeeper in the Native Animal Section, says releasing the animals should be a fairly easy process due to limited contact with humans.
“If we were to handle them too much they would become very focused on us and perhaps not as afraid of predators,” said Jose.
Feral foxes and cats have reduced the numbat population to 1% of its original size. Programs to remove the predators have had mixed results over the years, but the latest feral cat bait has seen great success.
“We know these species can recover if we give them breathing space from those feral predators,” said Albert Jacobs, the Western Australian Environment Minister.
The overall goal is to delist numbats from the endangered species list, and things are looking up.